Introductory Note:

If we are totally honest with ourselves, we can see why so many criticize Christianity. What they have seen of it is empty of Christ’s joy, peace, and goodness. In the 1930s Thomas Kelly recognized that much of the American church was only Christian in name and cultural identity. In this essay Kelly urges his hearers to move into a real, “decided Christianity” of whole-hearted devotion to Jesus. While the cultural specifics that he mentions are nearly 100 years old, Kelly’s message is still fresh and timely for us today: “True decidedness is not of doctrine, but of life orientation. It is a commitment of life, thoroughly, wholly, in every department and without reserve, to the Inner Guide.”

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

Any­one who has lived in total­i­tar­i­an Europe in recent years knows the inten­si­ty with which Nazi and Fas­cist and Com­mu­nist con­verts fling them­selves into the procla­ma­tion of their new gospels. No flac­cid, con­ve­nient­ly con­ven­tion­al Chris­t­ian has a mes­sage today for such impas­sioned con­verts to sec­u­lar gospels. Only a decid­ed Chris­t­ian can hope to pro­claim a sig­nif­i­cant gospel in these days.

This decid­ed­ness in a Chris­t­ian is not to be con­fused with the decid­ed­ness of the big­ot, or the man with a one-string gospel. It is not a decid­ed­ness about a par­tic­u­lar doc­trine. Such decid­ed” Chris­tians are plen­ti­ful, but they are not the answer to the world’s need. True decid­ed­ness is not of doc­trine, but of life ori­en­ta­tion. It is a com­mit­ment of life, thor­ough­ly, whol­ly, in every depart­ment and with­out reserve, to the Inner Guide. It is not a tense and reluc­tant decid­ed­ness, an hys­ter­i­cal assertive­ness. It is a joy­ful and qui­et dis­place­ment of life from its old cen­ter in the self, and a glad and irrev­o­ca­ble replace­ment of the whole of life in a new and divine Cen­ter. It is a life lived out from an all-embrac­ing cen­ter of moti­va­tion, which in glad readi­ness wills to do the will of the Father, so far as that will can be dis­cerned. It is a life of inte­gra­tion, of peace, of final coor­di­na­tion of all one’s pow­ers, with­in a sin­gle­ness of com­mit­ment. It is the final elim­i­na­tion of all tol­er­at­ed dou­ble-mind­ed­ness, and the dis­cov­ery of the pow­er which comes from being in the unity.”

Such decid­ed­ness is not forced upon us by exter­nal cir­cum­stances. It can­not be whipped up as an arti­fi­cial inten­si­ty, for the pur­pose of oppos­ing the sec­u­lar gospels of our day. It is of the essence of Chris­tian­i­ty to be total­i­tar­i­an in its claims. If we as Chris­tians hope to be instru­ments of the Divine Life in these days, we must be ready to pass out of the stage of mere Chris­tian­i­ty, to the stage of decid­ed Christians.

This same demand for a decid­ed Chris­tian­i­ty is stir­ring all about us. Why are so many unchurched? It is not all due to apa­thy. It is not due whol­ly to Mam­mon wor­ship, snug, smug, and con­ve­nient as such answers are. Is it not part­ly due to a des­per­ate hon­esty, to a deep sin­cer­i­ty? Men and women every­where […] have a deep, deep demand with­in them for an absolute­ly vital reli­gion, for an absolute ground and val­i­da­tion of life. This Inner Wit­ness with­in them is sharp­er than a two-edged sword. It cuts through shams. It rejects con­fused and shilly-shal­ly faiths. It is the aqua-regia which expos­es and dis­solves away all sur­face hypocrisies that have tried to pass as pure gold. Too many church­es and church pro­grams are elu­sive, archa­ic, watered down. The Inner Wit­ness with­in our crit­i­cal gen­er­a­tion leads it to feel, often inar­tic­u­late­ly, that this is not the answer to the soul’s demand. No doubt many church­es are vis­it­ed and too hasti­ly dis­missed by over­crit­i­cal, impa­tient per­sons. No doubt many crit­ics are eas­i­ly moved by pride or intel­lect, and are not yet hum­bled suf­fi­cient­ly to dis­cov­er their souls’ good in low­ly form. How­ev­er, the fact remains that the decid­ed Chris­tian­i­ty is what is sought, and where it is not found the inquir­er wan­ders away, and all too often aban­dons his dream of find­ing the Friend behind the Phenomena.”

It is just this Inner Wit­ness that has made men crit­i­cal of half­heart­ed reli­gions to which we can appeal. Here is a real point of entrance. Some crit­i­cism is large­ly root­ed in intel­lec­tu­al snob­bery, some crit­i­cisms are ratio­nal­iza­tions. But, after dis­count is made of all these eva­sions, there is a core sin­cer­i­ty in all men, a yearn­ing for the Real, a deep-set hunger for the Home­land of the soul. They fly as a cloud, as doves to their win­dows.” The world is full of seek­ers, as it was in the days of the First Pub­lish­ers of Truth. They are not sen­ti­men­tal, osten­ta­tious seek­ers, but baf­fled, con­fused, hard­head­ed, dis­cour­aged seek­ers, yet seek­ers nonethe­less. Some of them explain that they have grown up in post­war days and belong to the Lost Gen­er­a­tion. But they seek, and crit­i­cize, and reject because they have felt the touch­stone of Real­i­ty with­in themselves.

Already the Hound of Heav­en has been bay­ing on their track. They ask for a decid­ed Chris­t­ian faith. They own it when they find it. They are much too hon­est to claim it as their own unless they tru­ly pos­sess it. But they already pos­sess a key of promise greater than they know.

The decid­ed Chris­t­ian may serve as the agent of the Spir­it to bring oth­er waver­ing per­sons to a like deci­sive­ness. And only he can hope to point needy but seek­ing men to their true voca­tion as chil­dren of Truth.

Tak­en from The Eter­nal Promise by Thomas Kel­ly. Copy­right © 1966 by Richard M. Kel­ly. Pub­lished by Friends Unit­ed Press, Rich­mond, IN. www​.ama​zon​.com

Pho­to by Javier Allegue Bar­ros on Unsplash

Text First Published December 2016 · Last Featured on October 2021

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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